Let’s be absolutely real – is there anyone who doesn’t love weddings? All weddings are fun, we meet siblings, cousins and friends who have been out of touch. Yet, there are weddings and there are Sikh weddings which are big, loud, lively and utterly chaotic with lots happening through the day with tons of food, lots of music and, of course, do not forget the vigorous dancing! Every second is a photo op. You’ll have a tough time figuring out what’s going on; we just say go with the flow of things and revel in every event. Sikhs are great hosts and as a guest, you will be given royal treatment.
Out of the blue, I got this call from my eldest sister, that my unfettered, bachelor nephew had finally found a soul mate and would be tying the knot in a weeks’ time! I was so elated that I did a small jig in my room. This was a much-awaited wedding but it was going to be a small cozy affair, just as my nephew wished it to be.
I flew in a day before the wedding and was headlong pulled into the tizzy of wedding shenanigans. I am glad I was dressed for the occasion!
What all can you expect even in a small cozy Sikh wedding?
Venue: Most venues these days are perfect for all those vain pouting selfies and portrait shots which you can Instagram instantly. My nephew’s friends threw him a Mehendi lunch party at a hip and happening hotel with a DJ, Singer and dance troupe.
Dancing: Usually there is time to perfect your thumkas and the practice sessions leading up to the Mehendi function are absolutely riotous fun. And of course, the baraat (the groom arrives at the wedding venue on horseback) dance on the band wala’s music is ludicrous but who cares. My shy and reticent groom to be was swaying to the Bhangra beats along with the family and friends.
Food: Sikhs are fanatic about food and wedding food is totally decadent. Always a lavish spread with the silent waiters plying you with cheese and fritter starters and if it is meat then all kinds of drumsticks and then a gourmet buffet follows with a sinful array of desserts after that.
Conviviality: Merrymaking with siblings, cousins and friends who have arrived from all over is mandatory. A wedding basically lets you have absolute fun while catching up over innumerable cups of chai and pakoras( fritters).
Ensemble: Glittery Sherwanis, bejeweled Lehengas, Saris with flimsy blouses, Anarkalis or Palazzos were all around me. Eyes can get bedazzled with so much bling! These are surely a dress code for the wedding. My niece Kiran and my nephew’s (Gagan) wife Gurdiya, got identical dresses for the Mehendi and they sure looked vibrant in them.
Jewellery: If the outfits are blingy, then the jewellery has to be sparkling, brilliant and flashy. We, Indian women, would die without jewellery; it is an intrinsic part of us. (Btw I am not too keen about it)All the women were wearing chunky chokers, long, neck kissing danglers, chunky matching bangles, rings, anklets and what have you!
Functions: On the minimum side this wedding had two functions while on the maximum a big fat Punjabi wedding affair can go on for a week; Mehendi or Cocktails, sangeet, wedding and then the reception. We just had a Mehendi lunch, ubtan(Ubtan is a body mask of sandalwood powder, Haldi (turmeric), besan or chickpea flour and milk) and the wedding at the Gurudwara, the next day. It is a skin care tip handed down the ages. It is especially used for the bride and the groom too is given a ribbing with his clothes ripped off publicly and anything that comes in handy is used to smear it on him; eggs, cream, chocolate, butter! My nephew, Arshi was spared as there were few of us but his bro-in-law, Gaurav, did pour a raw egg down his vest. The ubtan is yellow and we told him later that it was his baby nephew’s poop!
Mehendi: or henna is applied in intricate patterns on the bride’s arms and legs and smeared all over the hands of the groom. All these rituals and traditions have a deeper meaning and are not just frivolous. Most people have this common belief that the darker the color the Mehendi leaves on the hands of a bride, the more she will be loved by her husband and mother-in-law. But the deeper significance of applying Mehendi during weddings is not limited just to sentiments and beliefs. Besides lending color to the hands, Mehendi is a medicinal herb. Weddings are taxing, and often, the pressure leads to headaches and fevers. As the wedding day approaches, the exhilaration mixed with nervous anticipation can take its toll on both, the bride and groom. Mehendi can ease the stress as it cools the body and prevents the nerves from becoming tense. The fascinating part is that the smell, the deep, red color and the health benefits that Mehendi lends, act as a potent aphrodisiac. And as the color and smell remain for days, it boosts the romance in the initial days of wedding. All the women in the marriage party get their hands smeared with Mehendi and it was fun to see the kiddos at it too. One granddaughter, Jiya got Mehendi applied on both her hands and feet while the other, Rubani said she didn’t feel like it and just got Chef Rubani tattooed on her forearm! Boys and men usually steer clear of Mehendi but then I saw Adi getting his name and a symbol on his hand.The next morning it was 14th February-the day of the wedding! A soft balmy morning, when we saw the groom, Arshi dressed in his golden Sherwani. Sisters tie the Sehra (ceremonial pearl veil) on the groom’s forehead. Traditionally Sikh groom must wear a turban, sehra and carry a sword and astride a decked up mare like the legendary hero on a white steed. He also has to sport a beard.
Sikh wedding is also called “Anand Karaj” or “Blissful Union”. Four times circling the “Guru Granth Sahib” (the Sikh holy book) is called “Anand Karaj “.The bride, Preeti looked ravishing in her peach lehenga and they made a radiant couple.
A Gurudwara or “the doorway to the guru” is a Sikh place of worship (temple) where the wedding takes place and the food was also served there but these days the afternoon lunch is held at a restaurant or banquet hall away from the Gurudwara. We had a sumptuous lunch and headed home to welcome the bride.
As an act of welcoming the newlyweds, mustard oil was poured at the corners of the entrance door by my sister. Next my sister waved a round water pot seven times over the heads of bride and groom. She had to sip from it until the son asks her to stop. The bride was few sweet bread by my sister and then handed over the customary gifts of jewellery.
Wedding games: Fishing for the Ring is a traditional game played at Indian weddings. This game establishes who will rule the roost on the home front. A ring is placed in a pot filled with petals and milk. Then the newlyweds are asked to fish for it. It is the best of three and the person who finds the ring first will always have an upper hand in the relationship.
Love: Love is abundant during weddings; parents with children or relatives with each other, friends’ and, of course, the bride and the groom. A wedding is beyond doubt a great time for everything to be in unity and harmony!
“They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. Rather they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies.” (Guru Amar Das, pg. 788 Sri Guru Granth Sahib)